Inspiring habitat protection stories, great conversations, and the opportunity to renew friendships and make new ones highlighted a wonderful weekend as nearly 50 attendees participated in the first ever Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund Grassroots Symposium. The Symposium was held October 15-17 in Toronto with speakers and participants from both the United States and Canada.
Kicking off the event was a wetlands workshop highlighting wetland policies, permits and regulatory tools by Julie Sibbing, Wetlands Policy Specialist for the National Wildlife Federation, Linda Pim of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Molly Flanagan of the Ohio Environmental Council. The workshop was a great segue for the event, initiating discussions about how Canada and the U.S. can work together on wetlands projects that affect the Great Lakes Basin.
Jeffrey Potter, Director of Communications Programs for the Biodiversity Project, introduced the Great Lakes Connecting Communities Toolbox, which is profiled in the center of this newsletter. The Toolbox is being created to help local organizations raise public awareness about key issues through attention to the impact they have on the Great Lakes and their associated habitats and watersheds. For more information, please refer to the center of this newsletter or visit our website at www.greatlakesdirectory.org.
Real stories of grassroots habitat protection work were highlighted through a grassroots panel comprised of Pat Krebs and Pat Dwight, Co-Chairs of Friends of Sheldon Marsh, Mary Jo Cullen of Citizens Concerned for Michipicoten Bay and Peggy Hutchison of the Grey Association for Better Planning. The panel told compelling stories of how GLAHNF helped them fight and win David and Goliath battles to save wetlands, groundwater aquifers and other places of power and beauty on our cherished Sweetwater Seas. “It’s really grassroots,” said a panel member of their success at getting others to help in their fight, stating;“it’s all of us making noise that makes the difference.”
A workshop on the contribution of pollution from factory farms and issues of liquid waste disposal and atmospheric deposition was presented by Andrew Hanson, attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates, Inc., and Maureen Reilly, an Ontario advocate of sustainable sanitation. Many participants commented about the value of increased awareness to the problem of concentrating too much manure on too little land.
Andy Robinson of the Institute for Conservation Leadership made a compelling presentation about fundraising that had everyone on their feet, literally. The workshop provided great insight about who gives to non-profits and highlighted the fact that individual donors give about 75% of private dollars compared to just 11% for foundations. Participants found the entire workshop useful, but agreed that learning to “make the ask” and feeling confident making a list of prospective donors was most beneficial.
The event concluded with a keynote address by Glen Dale of the Shoreline Stewardship Association of Cloud Bay and Little Trout Bay. Glen shared the group’s story of saving their beautiful and beloved Lake Superior shoreline from a trailer development.
In addition to the workshops mentioned above, the opportunity to network with grassroots groups was one of the most beneficial aspects of the symposium. Attendees appreciated networking with local, state, provincial and national groups, sharing similar issues and seeing that they were able to make a difference. Many commented about how other’s struggles and successes will impact their own efforts.
“I only knew one person when I arrived – it was great to connect with so many fellow activists,” commented a participant. Another person added,“Excellent in all ways. I learned so much and realize how much more I need to learn and to become more involved. The personal stories were inspiring.”
We were fortunate to have an excellent group of participants, good substance and great speakers for our first annual Grassroots Symposium. “This first Symposium far exceeded our expectations for attendance, information sharing, workshop quality and participant interest,” said Jill Ryan, GLAHNF Director.“I can’t wait until the 2005 Symposium!” We hope you’ll join us.